5 Chromebook Productivity Tips

Important Chromebook settings, Chrome OS apps, and more

The Chromebook has become one of the most widely-used laptops on the planet. With good reason: They’re simple to use, reliable, fast, and don’t suffer under the weight of viruses and malware.

But for those who depend on their mobile devices for heavy productivity, how can you make that Chrome OS laptop work more efficiently? Here are five tips that will go a long way to helping you become more productive with your Chromebook.

Work With Google Drive While Offline

If there’s one major misconception about the Chromebook, it’s that it cannot work without a network connection. The ability to function offline is crucial, especially for those who travel with their Chromebooks or find themselves in situations where there’s no internet connection. So how do you ensure you can work with your Chromebook when you don’t have a network connection? It’s actually quite simple. Follow these steps:

  1. Make sure your Chromebook is connected to a wireless network.

  2. Open Chrome and point it to the Google Docs Offline extension.

  3. Click Add to Chrome.

    Screenshot of the Add to Chrome button.
  4. When prompted, click Add extension.

    Screenshot of the Add extension button.
  5. Check the box for the Offline option.

    Screenshot of enabling Offline.
  6. Click Done.

You can now work with Google Drive while offline.

Pin Apps to the Taskbar

Like nearly every desktop operating system, you can pin apps to your Chromebook taskbar. This makes it much more efficient to launch those apps (instead of having to go through the Menu to find them). In order to pin an app to the taskbar, follow these steps:

  1. Click the menu button in the bottom right corner of the desktop.

  2. Click the upward-pointing arrow to open the application overview.

    Screenshot of accessing the Application Overview.
  3. Locate the app in question, two-finger tap the application’s launcher, and click Pin to shelf.

    Screenshot of pinning an app to the chromebook task bar.
  4. Enjoy faster access to that application.

Add a Website Shortcut to the Taskbar

In similar fashion to adding apps to the taskbar, you can also add specific websites to the taskbar, and even add them such that they run in their own application window (as opposed to a tab in Chrome). This is very handy when you have a site you frequently use for productivity (say a CMS tool, your banking site, or social media site). Here are the steps to make this happen:

  1. Open the site in question in Chrome.

  2. Click the Chrome menu button and click More tools > Create shortcut.

    Screenshot of the Create shortcut button.
  3. In the resulting window, give the shortcut a name, click the box for Open as window, and click Create.

    Screenshot of creating a shortcut.

The above steps will not only create the shortcut but will pin the shortcut to the taskbar. When you click that shortcut, it will open the site added in its own special app window (without the typical toolbars and other features of the regular Chrome browser).

Use the Overview

If you open multiple windows (such as web browsers, app windows, and other apps), you might be wondering what's the easiest way to see what you have open (and select from those open apps). Your Chromebook includes an overview feature that will display a thumbnail of each of your currently running apps/windows. To use this feature, tap the square button with the two vertical lines.

the chromebook overview key.
 Lifewire / Jack Wallen

The Overview allows you to select which app you want to work with (by clicking the app in question) or closing an app/window (by clicking the associated X in the upper right corner of the app/window in question).

Screenshot of the chreombook Overview.

Dictate to Google Docs

Google has one of the best speech-to-text engines on the market, and you can take advantage of that by dictating your work into Google Docs for hands-free writing. To make this happen you must first enable the on-screen keyboard. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the system tray at the bottom right corner of the desktop.

  2. Click the gear icon.

    Screenshot of the gear icon in the menu.
  3. Scroll to the bottom and click Advanced.

    Screenshot of the Advanced button.
  4. Scroll down to Accessibility and click Manage accessibility features.

    Screenshot of the Manage accessibility features button.
  5. Scroll down and click the On/Off slider for Enable on-screen keyboard to the On position.

    Screenshot of the Enable on-screen keyboard button.
  6. Close the Settings window.

Now open Google Drive, create a new document, and follow these steps:

  1. On the taskbar (at the bottom of the window), click the keyboard icon to reveal the on-screen keyboard.

    Screenshot of the on-screen keyboard button.
  2. Click the mic icon.

    Screenshot of the mic icon.
  3. Start dictating your text.

You should find the speech to text amazingly accurate.

Enjoy Better Productivity on Your Chromebook

With these five quick tips, you should experience a much more efficient level of productivity on your Chromebook. Never let anyone tell you again that a Chromebook is nothing more than a web browser.